For months, Virginia state lawmakers have tussled over legislation that would determine the size of a public subsidy to help build a new stadium for the National Football League’s Washington Commanders — a figure that began at roughly $1 billion and is now being whittled down to $300 million or less. But really, only one amount should make sense to taxpayers where it concerns a stadium handout to Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, one of the richest men in America. That number is zero.
The legislature convenes Wednesday in Richmond to hammer out the state’s budget in a special session; the stadium subsidy deal is also on the table. Support for the measure has been shrinking along with the team’s fan base, disheartened by a franchise that has made the playoffs just four times since 2007 — and lost in the first round each time.
In fact, there are several better reasons than the team’s failings on the field not to divert taxpayer dollars for a new stadium, which Mr. Snyder wants to build for the season starting in 2027, and just one not-very-good reason to do so.
To start with the latter, it is true that Virginia is the most populous state in the nation without a big-league sports franchise, and is bracketed by other states — Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, as well as D.C. — that do have such teams. That explains at least some of the political impetus behind a stadium subsidy deal. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican who took office this year, would clearly regard the Commanders’ move to Virginia as a feather in his cap and has not mentioned any subsidy amount he would see as excessive.
Mr. Youngkin, and any other elected official who would divert stadium tax revenue that would otherwise go into the state treasury and use it to slash Mr. Snyder’s own bill to build a stadium, would make a mockery of any claim of careful stewardship of the public coffers. Mr. Snyder is a multibillionaire. Another billionaire who owns the L.A. Rams, Stan Kroenke, didn’t ask for a dime when he built his team’s new SoFi Stadium, completed last year. He didn’t need the money; neither does Mr. Snyder.
Mr. Snyder apparently believes he can play Virginia and D.C. against Maryland, where his team has played since 1997 in a stadium, now known as FedEx Field, that is antiquated, poorly located and widely disliked. Hence his legislative machinations in Richmond.
Beyond Mr. Snyder’s deep pockets and his opportunistic strategy of pitting jurisdictional bidders against each other, there are other compelling reasons to oppose a stadium subsidy. One is that the team is considering at least one site in Virginia with poor access to transit — a main cause for FedEx Field’s disrepute. More compelling is that Mr. Snyder is embroiled in investigations of sexual misconduct and financial improprieties by Congress, the NFL and Virginia’s own attorney general’s office. The allegations are serious and substantive, if still unproven. That alone should give lawmakers serious pause in writing a check to the Commanders’ owner.